The health risks of wind turbines have been grossly overstated. As with a lot of these things, if you’re worried about public health, you should be focused on climate change, not wind turbines.
It’s reasonable that people should worry about the health impacts of a new technology. But it’s also important to check that these health impacts are real, not made up. Else you are scaremongering, which in itself can make people ill.
A study by Public Health Wales in 2013 concluded there was no evidence to suggest that noise from wind turbines has a direct physiological impact on health. They do, however, emphasise that the idea of ‘annoyance’ is pretty subjective and difficult to measure. Just because they aren’t bad for your health doesn’t mean everyone loves them.
Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Health at the university of Sydney's done some digging on so-called wind turbine syndrome - the idea that the noise of wind farms might cause a range of problems from heart disease to tinnitus, vertigo or panic attacks. He argues that anxiety and fear about wind turbines is being spread about by anti-wind farm groups, and that’s what’s causing some people to feel those symptoms. Or to put it another way, protests against wind farms make you ill, not wind farms themselves.
More seriously, there is something known as ‘shadow flicker’ which can affect people with autism or epilepsy. Shadows caused by moving turbine blades can cause a flicker effect through windows and doors where the contrast between light and shade is most noticeable.
But the people who build wind farms are a clever lot, and they know how to avoid this problem. UK planning regulations stipulate that shadow flicker should be considered - so you put the turbines in places that won't hurt people. This, plus the size and speed of modern turbines mean shadow flicker isn’t a medical risk.
Banner image: Michel Filion